Children’s Care Corporation
While most charities devote a portion, if not all of their funds to research questions, the Illinois Elks Children’s Care Program has steadfastly dedicated itself to helping children and parents cope with medical problems today. They strive to provide those services, treatments, and equipment needed to ease a child’s daily burden in coping with a physical problem. Many cases are very complex, and require custom designed braces, wheelchairs and treatment programs. Others may simply be the provision of corrective shoes or physical/occupational therapy services for three to six months. In all cases, they work to be certain appropriate insurance and state benefits are applied before the Elks provide assistance. In this manner, they stretch their available dollars to help as many children as possible. Conversely, where no insurance or government benefits are available, they provide assistance in the cost of treatment as needed. Many times the Illinois Elks Children’s Care Program help parents pay the high deductible of their health insurance. They also help with continuing treatment costs which can overwhelm a family budget.
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Read the article below on how the Pontiac Elks and Children’s Care Corporation made a difference in the life of one of our local youth! We are so proud of her!
By Luke Smucker
May 04. 2013 1:04PM
All smiles for new hand
If someone had told 13-year-old Lucy Hodgson, daughter of Larry and Diane Hodgson, Pontiac, that she would one day have two hands, she would never have believed it. That is because the Pontiac Pacer, junior high student and cheerleader was born with Symbrachydactyly, a congenital hand disorder characterized by abnormally short fingers that are sometimes webbed or conjoined, in her left hand.
“I wouldn’t have believed it,” said Hodgson. “The news would be too good to be true — I didn’t think I would get that opportunity.”
But she did, thanks to help from the Pontiac Elks Lodge members, in particular, Secretary Greg Verdun and his wife Sue, who have known Lucy and been friends of the Hodgson family for years.
“Her grandmother was our babysitter five years ago,” said Verdun. “So I’ve known the family personally for some time. My wife and Diane work together at Futures, and back in November, my wife brought to my attention that Lucy was now old enough and had progressed enough in her hand that she could be fitted for prosthesis.
“When I heard that, I gave Diane a call and asked if she would be interested in applying for assistance through the Elks Children’s Care Corporation, whom I had worked with for years. Once a request from Diane was submitted, I approached our board, got all the paperwork, contacted Administrator Bill Block in Springfield and submitted what I had. He was able to OK Lucy’s request.”
Lucy Hodgson’s hand didn’t develop with the rest of her body. Before she was born, her mother said ultrasounds showed she would be born without fingers. She ended up not having her palm and instead, had what her mother describes as “a little nubbin for a thumb.” She had little appendages where her fingers should have been and when she was 1, she had surgery on her hand, recommended by Dr. Timothy Light, a doctor at Shriners Hospitals for Children, Chicago, whom Lucy has been seeing since she was a year old.
“He did the surgery, but kept her thumb. She goes up yearly to see if she has any growth and this year, she was told she could be fitted for a prosthetic hand. So, we went and met with a prosthetic doctor,” said Diane Hodgson.
Even without a hand, Lucy was not one to be left behind by her peers. Lucy always points to the story of how, in pre-school, her mom was worried she wasn’t going to be able to tie her shoes.
“I went into that pre-school and was one of the first kids to learn how to tie a shoe,” said Lucy proudly. “It’s cool to me because I learned how to do it on my own without any instruction.”
While she learned ways to do things on her own, as she got older, the need to have that extra set of fingers became more apparent — except, her mom says, when it came to finally getting around to cleaning her room. Then the “I only have one hand” excuse often came into play.
“I wanted to play volleyball and softball,” said Hodgson. “For softball, you need to have a glove and be fast at getting the ball out of the glove. I couldn’t really do that with one hand. For volleyball, it was hard serving.”
Even without a second hand, she noted that she still competed on the swim team this past year with the Pontiac Pacers, a swim team at Pontiac Recreation Center. She uses a special paddle which gives her equal finger length and the same force to move through the water that she has with her right hand.
The cost to afford a prosthetic hand is estimated to begin at around $5,000 and only gets steeper the more technically advanced the appendage gets. Not to mention the fact that Hodgson will eventually outgrow her current prosthetic hand and its easy to understand why her family was troubled.
“Unfortunately, prosthetic hands don’t come cheap,” said Diane Hodgson. “It was very expensive. I talked with her regular doctor, Dr. Heather Schweizer, at OSF Medical Group, Fairbury, who suggested that the Pontiac Elks Lodge might be able to offer our family their financial services. Knowing that I have friends who are members, I talked to Sue Verdun and she contacted her husband, who told me to write a letter explaining the situation.”
In her letter to the Elks, Diane Hodgson wrote about how her daughter has adapted to only having one hand and that when she was younger, the family wasn’t so worried about it being noticeable, but now that Hodgson is in junior high, she was feeling more self conscious about being different from everybody else.
“She really wanted to have a prosthetic hand, even if only to make her feel like she has two hands,” said Diane Hodgson. “It was something we weren’t going to be able to attain right away. We looked into the Elks Lodge and they wanted to help.”
That Christmas began early, with a conversation Hodgson remembers word-for-word, minute-for-minute, to this day.
“Sue called me up a week or two before Christmas and said ‘Happy early Christmas,’” said Hodgson, smiling as if she mentally relives the moment each time she tells the story. “I was like, ‘What?’ and she said, ‘the Christmas present from us to you is help with your hand.’ I don’t know if she said anything else after that, but I cried — I was freaking out. It was one of the most amazing things in the world.”
The Elks Lodge called up Bardach-Schoene Prosthetic Lab, Elmwood Park, and said they would cover all of Lucy’s expenses. Not only did Hodgson and her family go to Elmwood Park for the hand on Feb. 1, but she got to bring along her best friend, Madison Webster too.
“It was an awesome feeling to have my best friend right next to me when I was getting a hand,” said Hodgson.
The Verduns were some of the first to see Lucy’s hand.
“I admit I got a little teary-eyed when she came in and was bouncing around and showing everyone her new hand,” said Verdun.
Although they were some of the first, they were definitely not the last to hear about Hodgson’s good fortune. After the hugs and thanks were said, Hodgson whisked off to Pontiac Junior High School for the first home volleyball game of the season.
“I went and surprised all my friends,” said Hodgson. “Not long after that, I was asked to speak to the Elks Lodge, thank them and show them what their generosity had done for me. This was a great experience to have the help of the Elks Lodge. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that there are heroes in town. There are people who can do something. You may not know who they are or what they look like, but there is somebody who can do something.”
These days, Hodgson is still experimenting with the new hand.
“When I first got it, I was trying to button up my coat and put my hand through the coat and I realized it was a lot of work. It was hard because I had to adapt to it and learn everything over again,” said Hodgson. “Now, I will pick up a cup or something or I’ll open my bedroom door with it, or button up my jacket. It was so difficult, but I had to learn to adapt to everything again.”
The help the Hodgson received courtesy of the Pontiac Elks Lodge is something Greg Verdun said he wished more people understood. To many, Verdun said the Elks Lodge might seem like little more than a place to go golfing.
“We want to give people the idea that it’s more than just a game of golf,’ said Verdun. “It’s very important to me and the Elks Lodge members to help people.”
For over 85 years, the Elks of Illinois has recognized the special needs of physically challenged children. While during their early years much of their work consisted of helping children injured in accidents, or suffering from polio, today the Illinois Elks Children’s Care Program has dedicated itself to helping children and parents like the Hodgsons cope with the medical problems of today. They also provide scholarships and direct assistance for children in need.
“We make donations all over the county,” said Verdun. “We don’t usually publicize what we do. As an example, over the years we’ve made donations of $500 or more to just about every fire department in the area. We do a lot of things in the community, but this was something I felt was worth getting the word out about.”
The act of giving is something Lucy Hodgson hopes to pay forward in the future.
“When I get older, I would do absolutely anything to help someone,” she said. “Eventually I was told I will grow out of this and need a new hand, but the Elks Lodge said to let them know because they would continue taking care of it.”